Editorial: ‘Persepolis’ as UConn Reads Selection is a great choice
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 22:09
The selection of “Persepolis” for UConn Reads 2013-2014 provides variety and needed perspective for UConn students and is an excellent choice for the community. Announced this past Monday, September 9th, “Persepolis” was one of five finalists for the honor. All nominations revolved around a theme of world literature and must be written by non-U.S. authors. “Persepolis” is a bold choice in that the story chronicles the semi-autobiographical story of author Marjane Satrapi’s upbringing during the Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War. Furthermore, the book does not fit the classic definition of a book and is actually written in graphic novel form, a fact that has kindled fierce debate regarding its artistic value. Because of this, UConn Reads has made a valuable contribution to its collection of novels seeking to bring together the UConn community.
“Persepolis” was originally published between 2000 and 2003 in four volumes written in French. In 2003 and 2004, it was released in two volumes in English; a repackaged complete set is the officially designated UConn Reads book. When it was first released in the U.S., it made waves as the 9/11 tragedy was an insignificant two years behind us and March 2003 was the beginning of our conflict with Iraq. To say identification as a Muslim at that time was difficult is a significant understatement, and the stigma continues today. As Satrapi has said, “Iran is reduced to veil and beard and nuclear weapon,” but thankfully this image is challenged by the humanity and relatability of Satrapi’s tale, a feature that makes it very advantageous as the UConn Reads book.
Its relatability is mostly driven by the main character’s author avatar, Marji, who struggles with her heritage, the new strict Muslim regime forced upon her during her teen years, and her displacement in Vienna as she studies abroad. Bounced between Western and Middle Eastern ideology, Marji struggles to understand which is better and where she belongs with both sides arguing she belongs to the other, something UConn students will find both relatable and provoking. Even with a diversity rate that keeps increasing, UConn is still predominantly a white majority. Such a Muslim perspective is invaluable to UConn students especially with the discussion it can bring about.
Finally, the graphic novel stands out because it is just that, written in comic format. The vivid black and white images of Satrapi’s novel emulate the style of Persian miniatures in keeping with the history and theme of the novel. The images convey a humanity and humor that the novel needs as it depicts a violent revolution, restrictive regime, in addition to the internal conflict this provokes in Marji. By choosing “Persepolis,” UConn Reads has greatly expanded its range in a very important and meaningful way for the UConn community.